THE COUNTRY voted last Thursday and, as predicted, it resulted in a hung parliament. But some interesting patterns emerged. The Tories gained more seats than any other party but not enough to form a government on their own, which shows that for all Labour’s faults most of the people of this country do not really want the Tory alternative.
The Labour vote held up well in the traditional Labour core areas: the North of England, central and east London, Scotland, Wales and Birmingham – and all the major urban working class areas. London MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – both members of the Labour Representation Committee opposed to “New Labour” – even increased their majorities.
The Labour Party campaign had very little funding so there was nothing much in the way of poster or media campaigns. This actually worked in the party’s favour because it reduced the influence of the right-wing “New Labourites”, while the door-to-door canvassers were mainly traditional party activists.
The evidence is that wherever there was door-to-door canvassing, Labour did well; the three televised debates between the party leaders dominated the media and the opinion polls but had little effect on the final vote; the vilification of Labour by the right-wing press (only one paper, the Mirror, supported Labour) had little effect and Lord Ashcroft’s multi-million-pound poster campaign also had little effect. Voters have developed an immunity to the ruling class media circus and commercial style advertising. But they do listen to people like themselves who can be bothered to come and talk to them face to face.
Certainly a return to old fashioned door-to-door canvassing was a major factor in the high turn out. And the high turn out was a major factor in the huge defeats suffered by the fascist British National Party. They failed to gain a parliamentary seat and lost the local government seats that were up for election at the same time. This is a triumph of the massive sheer hard slog of the work of thousands of supporters of Hope not Hate who put in the door-to-door work and we congratulate them. Wherever Hope not Hate had campaigned the turn out was higher and it was this that defeated the BNP. But we cannot be complacent – the racists actually increased their total vote but it shrank in proportion to the votes of other parties.
In many places the turn out was so high that there were long queues and hundreds were not able to vote before the polls closed, by law, on the dot of 10pm. This is the result of local government cuts – not enough staff to process the voters quickly enough and a lesson to all politicians who think that they can cut and cut and cut public sector jobs without it having any effect on them.
We now face a real possibility that the Liberal Democrats will insist that the new government ensures that the next election is held under some sort of proportional representation. This will not help the left.
The suggested Alternative Vote system will largely benefit the Liberal Democrats and guarantee their place as kingmakers in parliaments for many years to come. Under full proportional representation, if the threshold was one per cent of the vote as it is in some countries, the BNP would have won a parliamentary seat, as would UKIP. If the threshold was five per cent the result would be much the same as today with a parliament dominated by the three major parties but with a larger slice for the Liberal Democrats. Either way none of the fringe left parties would get into parliament.
Like most proportional representation governments it would become more bureaucratic, expensive and unwieldy than it already is. Bourgeois state machines are never truly democratic and are always geared to keep the working class out of power.
Even when there is a centre left coalition that gives a few government positions to left fringe parties they have no opportunities to implement left policies. They find themselves being used as tools to enforce anti-working class policies and end up betraying their class.
But it looks as though proportional representation will be on the agenda and our responsibility as a communist party will be to expose its lack of real democracy and fight to build the organised, class-conscious working class, as we would under any bourgeois state.
And it looks as though we will almost certainly have another general election within the year. As ever, the struggle goes on!